Hello and thanks for landing here. I have reached my minimum funding, but there is much more to this story...
This kickstarter was set up to fund my reporting from the first Class Action trial between former Subpostmasters and the Post Office, which is scheduled to take place on 5 November for 20 days. That will happen.
But there is another...
On 4 March 2019 the second and final trial of the class action against the Post Office will begin. It, too, will last 20 days.
If this kickstarter gets close to £12,000 by 15 October, I'll attend and report every single day of March's trial as well as November's.
And when March finishes, it will be all over. There are no more trials scheduled. This story. Or at least, the High Court element of it, ends.
It could be that the Subpostmasters, MPs and various professional people I've been speaking to for the last 8 years will have their opinions vindicated, and a judge will rule that the Post Office has acted unlawfully.
Or the judge could rule that the Post Office has acted entirely within the law.
This is high stakes stuff - reputations, livelihoods and tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers money are at stake.
Please contribute if you can. If the total gets to £12K, I will be there in November AND March, reporting this from the High Court.
If I don't make it to £12K I will still report November's trial and I will fulfil every single reward. I will also account for every penny I get as backing - either spending it researching and publishing material around November's trial or splitting it between November and March and hoping I can make up the difference in commissions.
Please check out the rewards and see what appeals. I am happy to answer any questions you want to post in the FAQ before you decide to back me.
Original post below:
**********ORIGINAL LAUNCH POST**********
Imagine paying your life savings to start a business relationship with a publicly-owned corporation which can take your money, demand more of it at will, refuse to help you, sack you with no recompense and then destroy your reputation by hounding you through the criminal justice system, alleging you are a thief.
The above happened to a number of subpostmasters - people who run local Post Offices - over the last two decades. I've met a few of them. It ruined their lives.
How did this all come about? Well...
...around 2000 the Post Office rolled out a networked IT accounting system (called "Horizon") to all its branch post offices. Since then, hundreds of subpostmasters have experienced unexplained discrepancies in their branch accounts - apparent cash losses the Post Office claimed they were contractually liable for.
The Post Office told the affected subpostmasters they were not entitled to any investigation into why the figures on their screens didn't match the cash in the tills, just that they had to make good any discrepancies with their own money.
The sums involved, in some cases, ran into tens of thousands of pounds. Many who couldn't afford to make good these discrepancies were suspended or sacked, losing thousands of pounds of investment and their livelihoods at a stroke. Some were criminally prosecuted by the Post Office's own in-house revenue recovery team for false accounting, theft or fraud.
This story has been described by one MP as a "national scandal" and by the Daily Mail as likely representing "one of the most widespread miscarriages of justice in the UK this century." Click on that last link and read the article. It's a belter.
Now, more than 500 former subpostmasters and ex-employees are suing the Post Office in a class action at the High Court in London. If the Post Office loses, damages could run into tens of millions of pounds. The Post Office is adamant it has not put a foot wrong. And it might be right.
The trial begins on Monday 5 November. It will last 20 days.
Despite two parliamentary debates, a select committee inquiry, an independent investigation by forensic accountants and a BBC Panorama programme on the subject, no one has got to the bottom of the mysterious Horizon IT problems or the Post Office's approach to investigating them.
I've already been to a pre-trial hearing, during which the Post Office admitted something they told Panorama was, in fact, untrue.
I would be immensely grateful for your backing, so I can be there every day of the trial. My main court reports will be made freely available at postofficetrial.com (the site is live now with plenty of historical info about this case and its victims). Backers get extra stuff. The rewards are fun and range from £1 to £1500.
This is your opportunity to fund some proper public interest journalism. To help tell the story of the ordinary people who claim they were caught up in a legal nightmare and ended up losing everything. Please donate if you can.
For more information, check out postofficetrial.com
PLEASE NOTE: If you want, you can donate completely anonymously and confidentially. When you donate do not use your real name in the profile name section (the only part of your details Kickstarter makes public). If the project is fully funded you will get sent a message asking if you want the reward your pledge qualifies you for. You can choose to ignore it, thus staying completely anonymous. Or you can supply your details, which lets me know who you are. The payment process is encrypted and secure.
Risks and challenges
The Post Office trial is due to begin on 5 November 2018. Even if this kickstarter reaches its target, I will make a loss. I am just about capable of swallowing that loss through my savings and/or by taking on professional commissions around this story. I am hoping to get over-funded.
If I can't raise the target funding every penny pledged returns to my backers. As a result I will not cover every day of the trial and will need to fill my diary with non-Post Office related work. That's why I'm running the kickstarter to 15 October rather than the start of the trial. If I fail to raise £3000 before 15 October I've still got a couple of weeks to find alternative paid work in November.
If, thanks to your generosity, this kickstarter reaches its £3000 target, the risks as I see them are this:
1) The trial does not happen.
This could be because the Post Office might settle before the trial starts or the subpostmasters could withdraw their claim. If either happens before the fundraising period ends, you will not be required to honour your pledges.
If the trial collapses or the claim is settled between the end of the fundraising period and start of the trial, I will refund any honoured pledges in full and cancel the requirement to pay all un-honoured pledges. I will swallow any fees imposed by kickstarter to ensure everyone gets what they donated.
2) The trial is postponed.
If the trial is postponed, I will attend the trial during the rescheduled dates and report it accordingly. I currently have nothing in my diary which can't be moved to accommodate this.
3) The trial starts, then collapses or is settled.
Even if the trial collapses or is settled in its first week there should be enough evidence (both written and spoken) put into the public domain to write daily blog posts throughout November. I'll also investigate the aftermath, speaking to the key players and widening the journalistic reach of the project by interviewing participants, legal observers, interested parties, MPs and other influential figures in the story. You will get your money's worth. In this way all backers at every level will have their rewards fulfilled.
4) I fall ill or suffer a family emergency and am unable to fulfil my commitment, partially or wholly, in person.
If I am required, through illness or any other unforseen circumstance, to absent myself from court for one day or more, I will arrange for a trained journalist to attend court on my behalf and compile a court report in my absence. I will then ensure that court report is published on www.postofficetrial.com. If I fall ill before the trial starts I will arrange for a trained journalist to attend the trial on my behalf. If I fall so ill I am unable to communicate or I die, I have arranged that you will get your money back. No one can predict the future, but if it helps, I haven't missed a day's work for several years.
5) Legal restrictions stop the reporting of the trial.
It is conceivable that the judge may order some elements of the trial not be reported. This is extremely unlikely. It is almost impossible to imagine a situation whereby the proceedings of the whole trial would be deemed unreportable. If this happens it would arguably be a bigger story than the trial itself, and I will honour the rewards in the same way proposed in point 3) above - covering the story as fully as possible.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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